Three Historic Gems

Oct 29, 2015

The Ann Arbor area is home to extraordinary historic buildings. Have you visited the Kempf House in Ann Arbor, the Hack House in Milan, or Gordon Hall in Dexter? All three of these homes were built between 1841 and 1888 and represent fascinating stories from Washtenaw County’s history.

The Hack House in Milan is the youngest of the three, built in 1888 for a young widow, Olive Friend, and her son. A Milan native, Olive had married Henry Friend, who crafted the elaborate Electric Sugar Refinery hoax  - and when officials learned of Henry's death and fraudulent “invention,” Olive returned to Milan to live in this ''stick-style" Victorian home.  Once owned by Fortune 500 company Owens-Illinois, Inc, the home was donated to the Milan Area Historical Society in 1980. In 1991, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Hack House museum is open from May to late November on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and also upon request for special events.

Ann Arbor’s Kempf House Museum is a not-for-profit organization that cares for the historic home and makes it accessible to the public. The museum is located in the downtown Ann Arbor area, and hosts frequent lectures, social events, and celebrations of history. The Kempf House was built in 1853 and houses the 1877 Steinway Concert Grand Piano that has been a fixture in the home for over 100 years! Kempf House is open for guided tours on Sundays 1-4pm (except holidays), from September through December, and March through May. Tours are also available by appointment for groups or individuals. Admission is free.

In the lovely town of Dexter, Gordon Hall sits proudly at the top of a sloped land area on the western side of the city. Gordon Hall was built in 1841 for Judge Samuel William Dexter (his mother was from the Gordon family, and he christened the home in her name), for whom the city is named. Katherine Dexter McCormick, Judge Dexter’s granddaughter and a historically important suffragist, biologist and philanthropist, repurchased the home in 1938 after decades of ownership outside the family, and donated it to the University of Michigan in 1950. In 2006, the Dexter Area Historical Society purchased Gordon Hall from the University and continues to restore and preserve this historic gem.

Photo courtesy of the Milan Area Historical Society.

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